Death of West Indies cricket

One Man's View

By HG Helps

Saturday, February 28, 2015

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I have listened to the many arguments circulating about the governance of West Indies cricket in recent time.

It is now well known that incumbent Whycliffe 'Dave' Cameron, a Jamaican, will be challenged for the presidency of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) by the legendary former Barbados and West Indies cricketer Joel 'Big Bird' Garner, when 12 delegates are shown the way to the voting station in Kingston on March 7.

The winner will lead the administrative charge of West Indies cricket for the next two years.

From the look of things, Cameron remains the frontrunner to confirm a second two-term reign, based on how the politics of West Indies cricket works. But even if he wins, the challenges of West Indies cricket will remain, as he does not have the capability or the approach to deal with them.

In many instances, the best man for the job is not necessarily the one who gets it, as we have seen from Cameron's performance so far. To cloud my mind even further along a negative pathway, I heard his running mate, Emmanuel Nantan, now vice-president of the WICB, speak on television some weeks ago and I had to wonder about the kind of thinking that goes into the organisation. If some of us think that Cameron is bad, just listen to Nantan.

There is no doubt that West Indies cricket is in the doldrums, both in terms of cricket standards and finances. Since my father took me to Sabina Park to watch my first Test match between the West Indies and England as a single-digit boy in 1968 when I could barely understand what was happening out in the middle, I have seen the fortunes of the West Indies fluctuate. But never have I seen the results as bad as they have been these days. Neither have I seen administration as woeful.

Some of the problems that have affected West Indies cricket have been around for decades. There is one called insularity, which, when stirred with parochialism, forms a potent drink that has kept the Caribbean culturally drunk and largely divided.

The latest saga involving the membership of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) overturning the initial decision by the board of directors that it empowered to act on its behalf, regarding which presidential candidate to support is the pungent form of insularity that has further poisoned the Caribbean cricket environment.

When I looked around the room at the annual general meeting of the JCA, it was not difficult to see why Jamaica's cricket was falling, and why the fortunes of the West Indies team are as terrible as they are.

A majority of the near 90 delegates who attended the meeting, sad to say, either do not understand cricket, or the issues involved in respect of the leadership of West Indies cricket. They went to that meeting with one purpose in mind -- to beat down a 'Bajan', Garner, and to keep the Jamaican. How in God's name can our cricket improve with people like that in such crucial positions?

It would have been simple for those same 'delegates' or representatives of clubs and institutions to look at what has happened to West Indies cricket over the last two years.

Two of the most vociferous in the crowd were Hugh Perry of the Portland Cricket Association, and Cecil Fletcher (the man who started the 'cass cass') from St James -- two parishes in which cricket is as dead as my grandfather's sugar cane grinding machine.

Both Perry and Fletcher are the typical cricket dinosaurs. Their thinking is as old as Noah. Yet, they, like many others, wield considerable influence on the proceedings.

They are not alone, not when you consider that an 'intellectual' like the mighty and most 'powerful' Dr Franklyn Johnston, who wrote in the Observer of Friday, February 20 inter alia: The noose of OECS, cricket, small island peeves is tightening. A vote for Garner is a vote against Jamaica.

"Be not intimidated by Anglophone 'micro chips'. Dave Cameron for president! We are in the Greater Antilles, neighbour of Haiti, DR, Cuba, Puerto Rico; birthplace of Bob, Usain, Shelly-Ann; sons of Bogle, Garvey, Gordon, Manley, Sharpe, Busta; daughters of Nanny; refuge of Bolivar and Maceo de Graceles. I love West Indian heritage, but I love Jamaica. Viva Jamaica!"

What utter garbage from an advisor to a Jamaican Cabinet minister -- a minister of education at that! No wonder Jamaica is in the sad state in which it finds itself if such a well-learned man can consistently have diarrhoea of the pen and sputter such foolishness.

What stares us in the face is that under Cameron's leadership there has been no growth in West Indies cricket. People tell me rubbish about the introduction of a franchise system for the regional four-day championship, but apart from fancy names tagged to some teams (Jamaica franchise still doesn't have a name), precious little has changed. The home-and-away system that now prevails was tried before. In summary, the only thing that is not the same is the standard of the cricket, which has nose-dived.

Cameron still has many questions to answer arising from the debacle of the aborted tour of India by the West Indies last year. If the stories that we are hearing are true, that he turned his back on his counterparts at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)
when they requested his intervention at the height of the players' dispute over money, then that was an error in judgement that he ought to pay for.

His ill-advised retweet that seemed to have endorsed a proposed retirement package for legendary Jamaica and West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle was totally out of order and confirmed his arrogance and shallowness. It appears as if Cameron is not thinking straight.

I hold no brief for former West Indies Cricket Board President Pat Rousseau, who, in newspaper articles called for Cameron to give himself out and walk back to the pavilion.

Rousseau asked some pertinent questions of Cameron, none of which have been answered by the incumbent, which I find strange. Refusing to even address the issues raised, tells me that something is amiss.

Like me, Cameron attended the illustrious Kingston College, now celebrating 90 years of existence. There is a view within some school circles that one should keep quiet when addressing people from his alma mater. I beg to differ. West Indies cricket is precious to me. Under Cameron's leadership, the game has been heading down a road that has the sign marked 'Certain Destruction' prominently nailed against
a post.

The WICB is virtually bankrupt, even before India's added pro forma invoice of US$42 million in compensation reached its headquarters in Antigua. The international team, importantly, remains planted at number eight in the International Cricket Council's Test and One-Day International rankings.

How also, can Cameron and his WICB justify the appointment of Jason Holder as One-Day captain when the youngster cannot even command a place on the team, nor has he demonstrated any particular sharp leadership skill? Even if your selectors make such a recommendation, as is the norm, isn't it within the right of the Board to flush it down the drain?

I will shed no tears for Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, who, like some of the other team members, have not improved their game in ages. In any event, that matter can be further ventilated later.

And who says that politics has no place in cricket? The hypocrites call for prime ministers, like Dr Ralph Golsalves and Dr Keith Mitchell to be burned at the stake for uttering remarks that they consider 'negative' against Cameron.

Gonzalves, Mitchell and all the other prime ministers, and politicians around the region must have voices. They, too, are ordinary cricket lovers and, like Mitchell and St Kitts/Nevis Cabinet minister Vance Amory, played the game at a fairly high level. The governments of the region, while they have no direct control over the running of the WICB, keep the game alive in their own territories, however small the support might be.

And when they know things that we do not know about, like a breach of a gentleman's agreement between the WICB and the players after the India tour shutdown, we are grateful to them for speaking out.

Chris Gayle would not have been playing for the West Indies had Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller not cried out for his re-inclusion after he was sidelined for remarks he made on KLAS sports radio in Jamaica. Interestingly, Cameron was vice-president of the WICB when Gayle was put out to pasture, and, as far as I am aware, did nothing to try to get the player back from eating grass to the delicacies that he has grown accustomed to consuming.

Now, Gayle is being punished for speaking out at the non-inclusion of his teammates, while Cameron, who chastised Gayle, is free to play his childish games
of insulting the player on social media.

Cameron, we should remember, was head of the WICB's marketing committee that forged a deal with cellular phone company Digicel, over long-time sponsor Cable & Wireless, and a later probe led by Justice Anthony Lucky, the Trinidad & Tobago jurist, found that there were gaping holes in that deal.

The WICB has contested some of the Lucky commitee findings.

We also need to know if there is any truth to the allegation that the WICB got a 'soft loan' of US$4 million from the ICC last year, as claimed by veteran English journalist Scyld Berry in the highly respected Sunday Telegraph newspaper. If so, what has happened to it and what was it used for? The WICB has not denied the newspaper report.

It has also not commented on a report carried by The Times of India that the World Cup sponsorship by Indian company Yepme is worth the equivalent of US$5 million. Word from the WICB is that the sponsorship was US$210,000. So who is telling the truth?

The Times of
India report of February 24, which originated in Bengaluru states: "Fashion portal Yepme has sponsored the West Indies team for the ICC Cricket World Cup in a bid to increase its brand reach and customer base. The campaign, which will cost Yepme about 30 Crore ($5 million) is its second big move in marketing after roping in the Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan as its brand ambassador in December.

"Since we are planning to expand our merchandise internationally, this move massively helps us improve our viewership and branding," said Sandeep Sharma, co-founder and COO at Yepme.com.

"A commercial may be carried in India, but sponsoring a team ensures reach to all geographies.

"Sharma expects the West Indies sponsorship to take the company's revenues to the next level."

Answers are needed here. But wait! The WICB answers to no one, right?

It seems as if even if we go down on our knees and beg, the team 'running' the WICB will do everything to preserve the status quo and the people of the region will do little to press for the structure to change.

Cameron has failed to live up to his 2013 election promise made on a radio programme that he would push to broaden the leadership structure. It is foolhardy for 12 people in the region to decide on which direction the game goes.

The PJ Patterson-led Governance Committee on West Indies cricket in 2007 highlighted poor leadership as one of the challenges that the game faced.

"There is a disconnect between the private cricket institutions and public ownership of the game;

"Administration at the top is seen as best unwieldy remote and non-representative and at worst as an ineffective and secretive cabal.

"We need to address these concerns in advising how the WICB should be set up and run. Changes are essential. A new departure is urgent," the Governance Report said.

That Governance Report was done at little or no cost to the WICB and contained material that, if implemented, would have revolutionised West Indies cricket. By contrast, the WICB said it has already implemented 19 of 20 recommendations put forward by its Director of Cricket Richard Pybus on a cricket review plan which would cost the WICB US$4.5 million. Still, cricket remains in the doghouse.

As a parting late cut, is it also true that the West Indies Players Association received US$350,000 in support from the WICB last year, while the six territorial boards got US$100,000 each in support funds?

Isn't it the territorial boards which run cricket?

We need for these and other things to be addressed.

HG Helps is Editor-at-large at the Jamaica Observer.

  


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